A Bible Lesson on Ezekiel 47:1-12

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

This lesson concerns the first 12 verses from Ezekiel 47. It’s important to hold them in perspective regarding Ezekiel’s prophecy, regarding the short run situation, regarding the New Testament, and regarding eternity.

In Ezekiel 11 the prophet spoke of God’s judgment on the leaders and prominent people of Israel. That word came to Ezekiel in Babylon on September 17, 592 BC. On that day, Ezekiel was given a vision of the glory of the LORD passing out, first of the temple area through the east gate (where the movers and shakers were busy discussing real estate), and then out of Jerusalem to hover over the Mount of Olives. In intervening chapters and years Ezekiel has prophesied to the exiles, promising a real shepherd for them, promising new hearts, hearts of flesh not stone, for God’s own glory, not theirs. He’s prophesied about new life to dead bones, to dead dead bones, this, while the exiles are in Babylon and Jerusalem and the temple have been laid waste, the destruction coming in 586 BC.

The vision that begins in Chapter 40 comes April 28, 573 BC, some 19 years after Ezekiel sees the glory of the LORD leave the temple by the east gate. It’s not until 539 BC, yet some 34 years after this vision we’re looking at, that Cyrus the Persian takes Babylon and tells the Jews to go home to rebuild. And the rebuilding of the Temple isn’t finished until 516 BC. There were rough days in the 23 years between the decree of Cyrus and the finishing of the temple. Even the ones who returned to build despaired and were ready to throw in the towel. Haggai on October 17, 520 BC said

Haggai 2:6 For thus says the LORD of hosts: Yet once more, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land.

7 And I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory, says the LORD of hosts.

8 The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, declares the LORD of hosts.

9 The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the LORD of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the LORD of hosts.'”

So surely on the date of this vision, there is absolutely no evidence to the natural mind that anything good is in store for God’s people. The remnant is in Babylon and Jerusalem is in ruins. But in Chapter 43 we’ve seen the LORD send him an angel to show Ezekiel a future Jerusalem and a future temple, and Ezekiel has seen the glory of the LORD come from the east and fill the temple. There can be no doubt that ultimately Ezekiel was seeing what John spoke of in Revelation.

Revelation 21:1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.

2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.

It’s in this context that we consider the verses of chapter 47. The angel has been showing Ezekiel around a future temple, perhaps in the short run and concretely, a rebuilt Jerusalem temple, but most truly and fully, a heaven in which God is in the midst of those who truly love Him.

Ezekiel 47:1 Then he brought me back to the door of the temple, and behold, water was issuing from below the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east). The water was flowing down from below the south end of the threshold of the temple, south of the altar.

So Ezekiel is at the temple and sees this spring of water, flowing east. It’s flowing from the near the altar, from where man is made right with a holy God by sacrifice. And there is a stream originating there. The “sons of Korah” saw this stream before Ezekiel:

Psalm 46:1 To the choirmaster. Of the Sons of Korah. According to Alamoth. A Song. God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

2 Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,

3 though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah

4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High.

5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns.

6 The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts.

7 The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

8 Come, behold the works of the LORD, how he has brought desolations on the earth.

9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire.

10 “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

11 The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

John the apostle saw this river long after Ezekiel.

 Revelation 22:1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb

2 through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.

3 No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him.

4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.

Jeremiah knew that God alone is the fountain of living water.

Jeremiah 17:13 O LORD, the hope of Israel, all who forsake you shall be put to shame; those who turn away from you shall be written in the earth, for they have forsaken the LORD, the fountain of living water.

In John 4, Jesus told the woman at the well that He is the source of living water.

Ezekiel 47:2 Then he brought me out by way of the north gate and led me around on the outside to the outer gate that faces toward the east; and behold, the water was trickling out on the south side.

Ezekiel has been led out the north gate because the east gate is shut, because the LORD has entered by it.

Ezekiel 44:1 Then he brought me back to the outer gate of the sanctuary, which faces east. And it was shut.

2 And the LORD said to me, “This gate shall remain shut; it shall not be opened, and no one shall enter by it, for the LORD, the God of Israel, has entered by it. Therefore it shall remain shut.

Presumably the implication is that His entry is final. Neither He nor another will exit by that gate again. Ezekiel sees the water flowing outside the city. The first appearance may be that the source is not so big. The water only trickles. But that’s not really the way things are.

Ezekiel 47:3 Going on eastward with a measuring line in his hand, the man measured a thousand cubits, and then led me through the water, and it was ankle-deep.

The angel leads Ezekiel away from the city toward the east. And 500 meters from the city he’s ankle deep in water. What seemed like a trickle is really a substantial flow.

4 Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was knee-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was waist-deep.

500 meters further, it is up to Ezekiel’s knees. 500 meters further, it’s up to his waist.

5 Again he measured a thousand, and it was a river that I could not pass through, for the water had risen. It was deep enough to swim in, a river that could not be passed through.

2 km away from the city, the river is both deep enough and fast moving enough that it’s impassable. It’s more than a human can negotiate on his or her own. What initially seemed small is a torrent. Notice that there are no tributaries here. There is only once source, and that is God Himself.

6 And he said to me, “Son of man, have you seen this?” Then he led me back to the bank of the river.

7 As I went back, I saw on the bank of the river very many trees on the one side and on the other.

In revelation John sees the tree of life on both sides of the river. Ezekiel sees many trees on both sides. It’s reminiscent of the Garden before the Fall.

8 And he said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, and enters the sea; when the water flows into the sea, the water will become fresh.

The water is flowing out of Jerusalem through the dry region between it and the Dead Sea, and it’s no ordinary water. Ordinary water doesn’t make salt water fresh. But this is the work of God alone, to make what’s dead live.

9 And wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish. For this water goes there, that the waters of the sea may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes.

Everything will live where the river goes. The picture is one of superabundance, things as they were meant to be from creation.

10 Fishermen will stand beside the sea. From Engedi to Eneglaim it will be a place for the spreading of nets. Its fish will be of very many kinds, like the fish of the Great Sea.

The Dead Sea will be productive like the Sea of Galilee.

11 But its swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they are to be left for salt.

This too has no natural explanation. While the water is fresh, yet there are salt marshes.

12 And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.”

There will be constant fruit. John saw 12 kinds, yielding every month. Ezekiel saw “much” fresh fruit every month. All of this is flowing from the presence of God. There is plenty and healing, things as they were meant to be from the beginning of time. This is God’s doing.

Here is a .pdf of this lesson.

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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